Joel 2:5
Like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains shall they leap, like the noise of a flame of fire that devours the stubble, as a strong people set in battle array.
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2:1-14 The priests were to alarm the people with the near approach of the Divine judgments. It is the work of ministers to warn of the fatal consequences of sin, and to reveal the wrath from heaven against the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. The striking description which follows, shows what would attend the devastations of locusts, but may also describe the effects from the ravaging of the land by the Chaldeans. If the alarm of temporal judgments is given to offending nations, how much more should sinners be warned to seek deliverance from the wrath to come! Our business therefore on earth must especially be, to secure an interest in our Lord Jesus Christ; and we should seek to be weaned from objects which will soon be torn from all who now make idols of them. There must be outward expressions of sorrow and shame, fasting, weeping, and mourning; tears for trouble must be turned into tears for the sin that caused it. But rending the garments would be vain, except their hearts were rent by abasement and self-abhorrence; by sorrow for their sins, and separation from them. There is no question but that if we truly repent of our sins, God will forgive them; but whether he will remove affliction is not promised, yet the probability of it should encourage us to repent.Like the noise of chariots on the tops of the mountains shall they leap - The amazing noise of the flight of locusts is likened by those who have heard them, to all sorts of deep sharp rushing sounds. One says , "their noise may be heard six miles off." Others , "within a hundred paces I heard the rushing noise occasioned by the flight of so many million of insects. When I was in the midst of them, it was as loud as the dashing of the waters occasioned by the mill-wheel." : "While passing over our heads, their sound was as of a great cataract." : "We heard a noise as of the rushing of a great wind at a distance." : "In flying they make a rushing rustling noise, as when a strong wind blows through trees." : "They cause a noise, like the rushing of a torrent." To add another vivid description , "When a swarm is advancing, it seems as though brown clouds were rising from the horizon, which, as they approach, spread more and more. They cast a veil over the sun and a shadow on the earth. Soon you see little dots, and observe a whizzing and life. Nearer yet, the sun is darkened; you hear a roaring and rushing like gushing water. On a sudden you find yourself surrounded with locusts."

Like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble - The sharp noise caused by these myriads of insects, while feeding, has also been noticed. : "You hear afar the noise which they make in browsing on the herbs and trees, as of an army which is foraging without restraint." : "When they alight upon the ground to feed, the plains are all covered, and they make a murmuring noise as they eat, when in two hours they devour all close to the ground." : "The noise which they make in devouring, ever announces their approach at some distance." : "They say, that not without a noise is their descent on the fields effected, and that there is a certain sharp sound, as they chew the grain as when the wind strongly fanneth a flame."

Their noise, Joel says, is like the "noise of chariots." Whence John says Revelation 9:9, the sound of their wings was as the sound of many horses rushing to battle. Their sound should be like the sound of war-chariots, hounding in their speed; but their inroad should be, where chariots could not go and man's foot could rarely reach, "on the tops of the mountains" . A mountain range is, next to the sea, the strongest natural protection. Mountains have been a limit to the mightiest powers. The Caucasus of old held in the Persian power; on the one side, all was enslaved, on the other, all was fearlessly free . Of late it enabled a few mountaineers to hold at bay the power of Russia. The pass of Thermopylae, until betrayed, enabled a handful of men to check the invasion of nearly two million.

The mountain-ridges of Spain were, from times before our Lord, the last home and rallying-place of the conquered or the birth-place of deliverance . God had assigned to His people a spot, central hereafter for the conversion of the world, yet where, meantime, they lay enveloped and sheltered "amid the mountains" which "His Right Hand purchased" Psalm 78:54. The Syrians owned that "their God" was "the God of the hills" 1 Kings 20:23; and the people confessed, "as the hills are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about His people" Psalm 125:2. Their protection was a symbol of His. But His protection withdrawn, nothing should be a hindrance to those whom He should send as a scourge. The prophet combines purposely things incompatible, the terrible heavy bounding of the scythed chariot, and the light speed with which these countless hosts should in their flight bound over the tops of the mountains, where God had made no path for man. Countless in number, boundless in might, are the instruments of God. The strongest national defenses give no security. Where then is safety, save in fleeing from God displeased to God appeased?

5. Like the noise of chariots—referring to the loud sound caused by their wings in motion, or else the movement of their hind legs.

on the tops of mountains—Maurer connects this with "they," that is, the locusts, which first occupy the higher places, and thence descend to the lower places. It may refer (as in English Version) to "chariots," which make most noise in crossing over rugged heights.

Like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains shall they leap; such warlike chariots on resounding mountains do, with their rapid motions, and shaking their irons about them, make a great and dreadful noise; so should these locusts in their flight; by which they shall terrify the people before they come to them, for the noise of them may be heard, say some, at six miles’ distance.

Like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble; which does with continued crackling burn what is under the flame, and threaten speedy and inevitable ruin to what is before it; all shall be endangered by it, as if surrounded with flaming fire.

As a strong people; so Joel 2:2.

Set in battle array; prepared to assault and destroy: in pursuance of this metaphor, see Joel 2:7-11. Like the noise of chariots on the tops of that mountains shall they leap,.... The motion of the locusts is leaping from place to place; for which the locusts have legs peculiarly made, their hindermost being the longest; wherefore Pliny (i) observes, that insects which have their hindermost legs long leap locusts; to which agrees the Scripture description of them: "which have legs above their feet, to leap withal upon the earth; even those of them ye may eat; the locust after his kind", Leviticus 11:21; which words, as Dr. Shaw (k), observes, may bear this construction: "which have knees upon" or "above their hinder legs, to leap withal upon the earth"; and he observes, that the "locust", has the two hindermost of its legs or feet much stronger, larger, and longer, than any of the foremost; in them the knee, or the articulation of the leg and thigh, is distinguished by a remarkable bending or curvature, whereby it is able, whenever prepared to jump, to spring and raise itself with great force and activity; and this fitly resembles the jumping of chariots on mountains and hills, which are uneven, and usually have stones lie scattered about, which, with the chains and irons about chariots, cause a great rattling; and the noise of locusts is compared to the noise of these, which is represented as very great; some say it is to be heard six miles off, as Remigius on the place; and Pliny says (l), they make such a noise with their wings when they fly, that they are thought to be other winged fowls; see Revelation 9:9. Chariots were made use of in war, and the Chaldeans are said to have chariots which should come like a whirlwind, Jeremiah 4:13;

like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble; as they are before compared to fire, and a flame of fire that devoured all things as easily as the fire devours stubble, so here to the crackling noise of it; see Ecclesiastes 7:6;

as a strong people set in battle array: that is, as the noise of a mighty army prepared for battle, just going to make the onset, when they lift up their voices aloud, and give a terrible shout; for this clause, as the other two, refer to the noise made by the locusts in their march; an emblem of the terribleness of the Chaldeans in theirs, who were heard before they were seen.

(i) Nat. Hist. l. 11. c. 48. (k) Travels, p. 420. Ed. 2.((l) Nat. Hist. l. 11. c. 29.

Like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains shall they leap, like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble, as a strong people set in battle array.
5. Like the noise of chariots, &c.] Cf. Revelation 9:9, “And the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots, of many horses rushing to war.” The remarkable noise made by a flight of locusts is noticed by many travellers. “Within a hundred paces, I heard the rushing noise occasioned by the flight of so many millions of insects. When I was in the midst of them, it was as loud as the dashing of waters occasioned by the mill-wheel.” “While passing over our heads, their sound was as of a great cataract.” “In flying they make a rushing, rustling noise, as when a strong wind blows through trees.” Cf. below, p. 87 (No. 1), 89 (No. 4), 90 (No. 7).

like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble] Here the reference is to the sound made by the insects while feeding. Cyril long ago compared the noise of locusts browsing to that of a wind φλόγα διαῤῥιπίζοντος (ap. Boch. Hieroz. 3:309); and C. V. Riley, the eminent American entomologist, speaks of it as resembling “the crackling of a prairie-fire” (Riverside Nat. Hist. 2., p. 197). “The sound of their feeding, when in swarms, is as the rushing of flames driven by the wind” (Newman, Hist. of Insects, Joel 2:1, cited in the Speaker’s Comm.).

as a strong people set in battle array] cf. Joel 2:2. They prepare for the attack like a mighty nation, seized to a man with martial ardour, and arrayed in order for the fray.Verse 5. - The first clause may be understood

(1) according to the Authorized Version, whereby the leaping is attributed to the locusts, or

(2) asper may be understood after chariots, and then the leaping is predicated of the chariots. The last clause of the same verse is capable of three constructions, namely

(1) "They shall leap (yeraqqedim being supplied) as a strong people set in battle array;" or

(2) "The noise (qol understood) shall be as the noise of a strong people set in battle array;" or

(3) "They are as a strong people set in battle array." Kimchi interprets according to (2), "As a strong people that is set in array to fight with the people who is opposed to them, who make a great noise and shouting in order to strike terror into their enemies." Like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble. This was the noise made by them, not when they were properly in motion, but when alighting on a district they devoured every green thing in plant, or shrub, or tree - the noise, in fact, which they made when feeding. It resembled the crackling of flame ever a field of grain or stubble set on fire. Such was the noise they made when marching, and such the noise they made when foraging - the one was like the rattling of a chariot, the other the crackling of fire. Cyril notices this peculiarity as follows: "They say that their alighting in the fields is effected not without noise; but that a certain shrill noise is produced by their teeth, while they chew into pieces the prostrate grain, as of wind scattering flame." Thus Thomson also says, "The noise made in marching and foraging was like that of a heavy shower on a distant forest." As a strong people set in battle array. Their progress is thus described: "Their steady though swift advance and regular order resembled an army well equipped and in battle array on its line of march." Cyril says of them, "By reason of their innumerable multitude, not easy to be encountered, but rather very dangerous to be met with." Again he says, "They are an irresistible thing, and altogether invincible by men." Here again the prophet's description is confirmed by the observation of intelligent eye-witnesses. Referring to Solomon's statement, "The locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands," Dr. Thomson says, "Nothing in their habits is more striking than the pertinacity with which they all pursue the same line of march, like a disciplined army. As they have no king, they must be influenced by some common instinct." No help is to be expected from Assyria, because the Lord will punish His people. Hosea 5:14. "For I am like a lion to Ephraim, and like the young lion to the house of Judah: I, I tear in pieces, and go; I carry away, and there is no deliverer. Hosea 5:15. "I go, return to my place, till they repent and shall seek my face. In their affliction they will seek me early." For the figure of the lion, which seizes its prey, and tears it in pieces without deliverance, see Hosea 13:7 and Isaiah 5:29. אשּׂא denotes the carrying away of booty, as in 1 Samuel 17:34. For the fact itself, compare Deuteronomy 32:39. The first clause of Hosea 5:15 is still to be interpreted from the figure of the lion. As the lion withdraws into its cave, so will the Lord withdraw into His own place, viz., heaven, and deprive the Israelites of His gracious, helpful presence, until they repent, i.e., not only feel themselves guilty, but feel the guilt by bearing the punishment. Suffering punishment awakens the need of mercy, and impels them to seek the face of the Lord. The expression, "in the distress to them," recals בּצּר לך in Deuteronomy 4:30. Shichēr is to be taken as a denom. of shachar, the morning dawn (Hosea 6:3), in the sense of early, i.e., zealously, urgently, as the play upon the word כּשׁחר in Hosea 6:3 unmistakeably shows. For the fact itself, compare Hosea 2:9 and Deuteronomy 4:29-30.
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